THE GIRLFRIEND of a kayaker could only look on helplessly as he drowned after a safety strap got caught on a submerged tree stump, an inquest has heard.
Gareth Lockyer’s last words to girlfriend Emma North were: “I’ve got nothing left” as he fought for life after his kayak overturned in the swollen River Usk in South Wales on Sunday, February 9. His body was swept away and was not found until the following day.
The 34-year-old mechanical design engineer with Rugby based power firm Alstom was on a weekend trip with Miss North and seven other members of the Royal Leamington Spa Canoe Club.
The experienced canoeist – who had lived in Warwick for six years with Miss North, having grown up in the Cotswolds – was negotiating a particularly difficult section of the river in the heart of the Brecon Beacons when tragedy struck.
Miss North told the inquest in Brecon she had to paddle hard to the bank after hitting a big wave. She saw Mr Lockyer and another kayaker had come out of their boats.
She shouted to him to keep swimming but heard him reply: “I’ve got nothing left”.
A safety strap, used to tow canoes or pull people from the water, had wrapped around Mr Lockyer’s leg then snagged on the trunk of a fallen tree.
His family described him as an adventurous person and said they held no one responsible for his death.
His brother James Lockyer said: “He knew the risks but he wasn’t reckless. I want the canoe club to know I speak for myself and my mum and dad – we don’t hold anyone to blame.”
Mr Lockyer took part in a number of adventure sports but this was the first time he had been on the stretch of river at Llangynidr, near Crickhowell.
Locals had described conditions on the river as the worst they had ever seen following weeks of heavy rain.
Specialist dogs, Mountain Rescue, Mid and West Wales Fire Service, HM Coastguard and two helicopters were all involved in the search operation which covered more than 11 miles of river.
Powys coroner Andrew Barkley recorded a narrative verdict.
He said: “It seems likely his body had been held underwater by the strap being snagged in the undergrowth.”